We had been released from the hospital early that December morning. I sat in the backseat with him, and The Hubby drove home. I remember watching him as he slept contently in his bucket seat, and seeing the snow covered trees in the distance. The sun glared off the roads, reflecting a warm light that was deceiving to the actual cold of the holiday season.
I watched his soft cheeks, watched his small chest breathe up and down. I watched him closely, wanting to swallow him, wanting to stall these moments. There would never be enough moments. Tears fell down my face…
The Hubby glanced at me in the rearview mirror, and softly said, “Are you okay?”
I inwardly sobbed, and then managed,
“I didn’t get to do this last time. I didn’t get to take him home”.
Last time, I walked out of the hospital feeling lifeless. I cycled between tears, and horror. Sometimes there was rage, and self-loathing. But then there were those empty, heart wrenching moments that only a woman who has lost a child could know. Those moments made me feel like my heart would collapse, that my lungs would never find enough air, and that my eyes would never be able to handle the light again. While I was confined to the backseat of my parent’s car, The Kiddo was inching further away. Would be know I was gone? Would he be worried? Would he cry? Would he be crying like I was? The idea that he might be suffering like me, brought me to my knees, figuratively and literally at times.
Those moments, in that short but long drive home, are ones I hope I never have to relive in this lifetime or ever. Those were the coldest moments I have yet to endure, and I have lived a life full of hardship.
But that drive, that drive home with my son in my car? It was the moment that kick started the realization that I had been robbed of even tiny moments like that. Ones that I didn’t even know I wanted. Ones that I didn’t know were important. No one told me how important the car ride home was, and how exciting, and scary it was to walk out of the hospital with your brand new infant, ready to take on the world.
I share this piece I wrote, shortly after my son was born. My thoughts were often directed toward The Kiddo and my parented son, comparing the experiences. My perspective, has obviously shifted, and isn’t nearly as rose colored, but I still believe the gist of the message:
The experience of adoption has changed who I am as a woman. And it has most certainly shaped the kind of mother I am today.
“I was 17, I didn’t know better. I didn’t know the joy of motherhood, I didn’t know the blessing that having a child was. I did know that my little Ben needed a better Mom, a better home, a better life. I knew I couldn’t give this to him at the ripe age of 17. I knew that he was bigger than me in so many ways, so I had to let him go. I’ve never regretted that choice. I know to this day that I did the best thing for my little boy. I gave him physical life, and I gave him his life; a life that he deserved, and one that I knew I couldn’t give to him. For him, I became a birthmother.
Now, I’m a mother again. This time, a different kind. The real kind. The kind that wakes up in the middle of the night. The kind that worries non-stop, the kind that claps in joy at the silliest things that her son does. I am a mother. M is my pride and joy, I love him fiercely, with a love I never thought could possibly exist. His existance has opened new horizons, new feelings, new thoughts, and a new life for me. While he is learning so much from this big world, in the short time he has been here, he has taught me more about myself, then I have learned in my entire life.
I love both my boys, but my love is so different for each of them. The Kiddo shaped me for the mother I would one day be, and because of the selflless love I had for him, he’s made me a better mother for M. The Kiddo taught me how precious a child is, and how beautiful it is to be a mother and watch your child grow. Without him, I would have never learned how much you can miss when you aren’t there.
I’ve contemplated my parenting choices. Everywhere I look people are trying to train their children into their schedule, mold them into the beings they want them to be. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, it’s natural. However, what’s natural for me is so different. I’m learning every day the things I missed with The Kiddo, and because I know I missed them with him, I’m soaking every small, extraordinary moment up with M. If he wants to stay up all night, I’ll let him. If he wants me to stick out my tongue over and over again, just so he can smile at me, I’ll do it. If he wants to nurse for hours on end, I’ll let him. All because I didn’t get to do it with The Kiddo. I want M to be what he wants, because I want to watch him, I want to see what sort of amazing being I created without trying to make him into the baby he isn’t. I want to soak up every single moment, because I know I’ll never get it back.
At night, when M is wide awake, when my eyes are heavy with sleep, I turn on some country music, and we two-step around the apartment. I sing to him, I snuggle him closer. His eyes flit about excitedly, taking in every color, every picture, every shadow, like he’s never seen it before. Every so often, he’ll put his soft little head on my shoulder, and snuggle into my neck. Within seconds, his head is bobbing up again, trying to remember where he last looked, before he took the time to show me that he felt safe. He’ll be crying, and the moment we start dancing, he stops. M usually looks at me with wonder for a second, and then turns his attention to the objects in the room. We dance for hours at a time, until my arms get tired, until he needs fed, until he’s sleeping, whatever. We just dance, and it’s my favorite time of the day. He’s the best dance partner I’ve ever had, and I sure wouldn’t trade those late night dances for even a bit of sleep.
People talk about all the things that are awful about parenthood- no sleep, lack of a social life, not showering, having no time. The list goes on. What they don’t realize is that when you didn’t get to have that, when you didn’t get to experience those things, they are things you want to have. I didn’t get to see The Kiddo’s first bath, or first smile. I didn’t get to see him cry real tears, or say his first word. I didn’t get stay up all night and rock him to sleep. The thought of all the things I missed with The Kiddo haunted me for years, and even to this day, I sometimes wish I got to sample a bit of his life in real-time. Yet, because of this, I’m embracing all of the imperfections of parenthood. I want the late nights, I want the lack of a social life, I want all of the things that come with parenthood. I want to experience the terrible, the good, the amazing, the awful, all of it. I’m amazed by the simple beauty of all of these experiences, even the tiresome ones.
There are no words, no amount of ‘thank-you’s that will be enough for The Kiddo. I always thought if I ever saw him again, he would thank me for giving him his beautiful family. I never imagined that I would want to hug him tight, and thank him for teaching me how to be a better mom, a more attentive mother, a mother who appreciates the beauty in things that others might miss. A mother who will be happy to learn from her child, who will want to soak up every moment with her child, and will go to all lengths to make sure that her little one is happy, comfortable, loved, and protected.”